Listen to gym-goers and coaches talk about sweating and you'll hear a huge range of different opinions.
"Sweating is a sign that you aren't very fit"
"The more you sweat the fitter you are"
"If two people do the same workout the one that sweats more burns the most calories"
After numerous questions on whether sweat is good or bad while training I thought it was time to address the topic and dispell the broscience with the help of a few studies.
Let's dig in.
First Of All, What Is The Purpose Of Sweat?
The main purpose of sweat is to cool our body down in order to prevent our core body temperature from reaching levels deemed dangerous.
As our glands release sweat upon the increase in body temperature our skin becomes coated with sweat, which upon evaporation takes away some of this heat - resulting in either the maintenance or reduction of your current body temperature.
Factors Contributing To The Amount YOU Sweat
Yep, some people regardless of there fitness levels will sweat signicantly more or significantly less than others, that's genetics.
That said there are a number of factors that are aware of that contributes to the amount an individual sweats including:
- Your current fitness level (more on this in a moment)
- Your weight/body fat level
- Your gender (studies indicate men sweat more than women)
- Stress levels (increased stress = increased sweat)
- Consumption of stimulants such as caffeine
- Consumption of alcohol
Do Fitter Individuals Sweat More?
The answer is yes, fitter individuals do sweat more (below you'll find a study to back this one up) however let it be known just because you sweat a lot this does not mean you're extremely fit...
Excessive weight also causes a larger amount of sweating as the more you weigh the more energy your body will be exerting to peform these movements, larger amounts of energy generate heat which in turn induces sweating.
When it comes to elite athletes sweating more than an ordinary person this is due to an ongoing increase in efficiency over time - their body begins regulating its temperature earlier on allowing them to maintain a higher work rate for a vastly longer period of time.
It makes sense.
Whether we're discussing an elite boxer applying relentless pressure on their opponent in the ring or we're discussing a top tier cyclist grinding their way up impossibly steep hills the principle is the same.
The fitter you are the harder you can work.
The harder you work, the more power you generate.
Power is synonymous with heat.
Larger amount of sweat produced by the body allow the individual to generate this power for longer periods of time while ensuring their core body temperature does not reach dangerous levels.
A Few Tips When It Comes To Sweat Production & Performance
Hydration Is Key
Before performing any endeavour that requires a large amount of power generation, be it a CrossFit WOD or a fast 5KM run ensure you are sufficiently hydrated, the fluids you drink become your bodies source for sweat, and as we now know an efficient cooling system will allow you to perform far better.
If you fail to hydrate well your performance will be fairly poor to say the least as your body competes internally for resources, reducing performance and often also resulting in muscle cramps etc.
Tipping Water On Yourself Actually Does Help
It doesn't have to be your sweat that's evaporating to reduce your core body temperature, athletes know this and as such often pour bottles of water over their head and back etc. this will take some of the stress of producing sweat off your body, allowing you to stay hydrated longer too.
What Type Of Clothing Should Excessive Sweaters Train In?
Excessive sweaters should ideally be training in a synthetic fabric that wicks moisture away.
Moisture wicking is a fancy term many athletic clothing brands like using, it essnetially means the fabric pulls the sweat from your skin to the outer layer of the material before it evaporates.
Cotton isn't a great choice for excessive sweaters as cotton will absorb moisture but won't actually wick it away - go for a long run in a cotton shirt and you'll look and feel like you've just stepped out of a swimming pool.
Polyester and lycra are both moisture wicking materials that're far better suited for the excessive sweater.
Studies Performed On Sweating
Essentially demonstrating that fitter individuals produce more sweat and begin sweating sooner.
"Relatively few studies have investigated peripheral sweating mechanisms of long-distance runners. The aim of this study was to compare peripheral sweating mechanisms in male long-distance runners, and sedentary counterparts. Thirty six subjects, including 20 sedentary controls and 16 long-distance runners (with 7–12 years of athletic training.
In conclusion, routine long-distance runners exhibited higher sweat responses after evoked sweating due to shorter sweat onset time and higher sweat output per sweat gland. Therefore, our findings suggest that routine long-distance running result in upregulated sweating responses in peripheral sweating mechanisms. However, additional research is needed to identify the molecular mechanism underlying these changes. Our results complement existing understanding of perspiration in long-distance runners."
Sex Differences in the Effects of Physical Training on Sweat Gland Responses During a Graded Exercise
Men sweat more.
"We assessed sex differences in the sweat gland response to changes in exercise intensity with respect to subjects' physical training status. In total, 37 subjects participated (10 trained and 10 untrained females, and 8 trained and 9 untrained males). Each subject cycled continuously at 35, 50 and 65% of their maximal O(2) uptake (V(O2max)) for 60 min at an ambient temperature of 30°C and a relative humidity of 45%. The mean local sweating rate (SR) on the forehead, chest, back, forearm and thigh was significantly greater in the trained subjects than in the untrained subjects of both sexes. The degree of the increase in SR with physical training was greater in males than in females at higher levels of exercise intensity. This increase in SR depended primarily on an increase in the sweat output per gland (SGO) in both sexes. However, control of the SR increase with increasing exercise intensity was altered by training in females, i.e. the increase in SR from exercise at 50 to 65% V(O2max) depended only on an increase in SGO in trained females and males and untrained males, but it depended on increases in activated sweat glands and the SGO in untrained females. It was concluded that training improved the sweating response, and a sex difference was observed in the degree of improvement in the sweating response due to physical training. This sex difference became more pronounced with increasing exercise intensity. A sex difference was observed in the control of sweating rate to an increase in exercise intensity, i.e. the maximal activated sweat gland responses of untrained females required a higher body temperature or work intensity than the other groups."
A look into the best fabric to train in
"We investigated the microbial growth and odor development in cotton and synthetic clothing fabrics. T-shirts were collected from 26 healthy individuals after an intensive bicycle spinning session and incubated for 28 h before analysis. A trained odor panel determined significant differences between polyester versus cotton fabrics for the hedonic value, the intensity, and five qualitative odor characteristics. The polyester T-shirts smelled significantly less pleasant and more intense, compared to the cotton T-shirts. A dissimilar bacterial growth was found in cotton versus synthetic clothing textiles. Micrococci were isolated in almost all synthetic shirts and were detected almost solely on synthetic shirts by means of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis fingerprinting. A selective enrichment of micrococci in an in vitro growth experiment confirmed the presence of these species on polyester. Staphylococci were abundant on both cotton and synthetic fabrics. Corynebacteria were not enriched on any textile type. This research found that the composition of clothing fibers promotes differential growth of textile microbes and, as such, determines possible malodor generation."